On June 9th, 2015, the Mood of Living team attended The Grand Tasting of Wines from Santorini event, where we sampled a variety of wines from Santorini, Greece. Santorini is an island located off the coast of Athens, well known for its sunsets, blue-domed rooftops, and – most importantly – wine.
Winemaking in Santorini dates to ancient times, with evidence of production stretching as far back as 3500 BC. However, it is the 1600 BC volcanic eruption that is credited with creating the unique taste of today’s wine. The eruption’s leftover volcanic ash, along with pumice stone and solidified lava, now serves as the soil for the special type of grape that is indigenous to the island. This grape, known as Assyrtiko, yields the very full-bodied, dry white wine that Santorini is known for.
The wine of Santorini differs from other wines because of its acidity and minerality. These distinctive traits stem from not only the rich soil but also the particular climate on the island. A major factor is the high winds, which can reach up to 21mph on a normal day. When the wind blows, it transports and disperses nutrient-laden water from the Aegean Sea across the island. This process serves as the main hydration for the vines, since Santorini only receives about 400mm of rain a year. Additionally, the lack of clay in the soil helps prevent diseases among the vines, in turn decreasing the use of pesticides and creating a more organic-style grape in Santorini. The island’s excessive sunlight raises the alcohol content of the wine, producing the notable stronger taste and sharp bite that demarcates Santorini wine from other varieties.
The Mood of Living team sampled the top wines from Santorini, including the 100% Assyrtiko, the Nyhteri, and the Vinsanto. The Assyrtiko is the most famous white wine from Santorini. The Nyhteri or “Night” is aged in oak barrels and picked exclusively at night, hence the name. This type of wine is very high in pH and alcohol percentage. In contrast, the Vinsanto is a blend of the Athiri and Aidani wines, whose grapes must be sun-dried on a terrace (to protect them from the wind) for about 12-14 days and then aged in an oak barrel for 24 months. This dessert wine is very sweet and marked by its high level of sugar. The Vinsanto also costs more than the average bottle, due to the amount of grapes needed – it takes ten kilos of grapes to make one kilo of juice.
Overall, the island of Santorini and its winemaking traditions make for both a delicious variety of wines and a fascinating story. If you would like to learn more about what the Mood of Living team experienced, click here.